St. Marys Journal Argus
Hoping to step into a Canadian music industry void that has been created by a number of bigger-name Celtic music acts either going into hiatus, disbanding, or retiring altogether, Alvinston-born bagpipe-playing brothers Robby and Sandy Campbell — along with bandmates in The Mudmen — are currently working on their eighth CD, to be called “On a Train.” As if they need any more momentum behind a career that has definitely been gaining speed over the past couple of years.
The Mudmen will hit the stage at the St. Marys Town Hall auditorium on Friday, Jan. 16, in a gig that follows up on a busy schedule during the fall of 2014 that saw the Celtic rockers perform on 15 different small-size theatres around Ontario. Doors open at 7 p.m. on Friday, with the music starting at 8 p.m. Tickets, at $20 apiece, are available at Guest Services in the Pyramid Centre, or at the door.
The most recent album for the Mudmen was released in 2013.
“It helps for playing (outdoor music) festivals” to have a recording to promote, explained Robby Campbell. “It’s amazing, with all that’s happening now on social media, that the old formula of radio, television and newspaper is still sometimes the way to go to get your name out there.”
It can be so tough to sort through all the extraneous options to find what you’re looking for if you’re looking for music on the Internet, he argues. As an artist, meanwhile, it can be tough to target exactly where and how you want to promote your music. So the Mudmen — including a bass player from Niagara Falls and two other members from Toronto — still believe the key to musical success lies in hitting the stage for live performances, and getting the message out through traditional styles of media.
The Mudmen have played in St. Marys before, including a gig a couple of years ago at the Kin Summerfest. Most recently, they played a private birthday party out in the country where a friend of the host pulled up a tour bus next to the farm shop and they projected music videos onto the side of it in addition to the Celtic music concert. Campbell says he’s hoping that they can draw in some returnees from those recent shows for the Town Hall concert.
With the theatre shows, the band welcomes the opportunity to just make the event all about the music. Working on shows in bars, or with any licensed event, can get a little complicated, he says, with the requirements for getting all the approvals and security. Plus, this way, they don’t have to turn anyone away due to age.
“In a bar, people are sometimes there for the pretty little waitress or the hamburger special. They don’t care about the music,” Campbell added. “And when you play the bar scene, you’re usually going on stage for your first set at around 11 or 11:30. This way, you can bring the kids if you want and they’ll still be home in bed by 11.”
The Mudmen aim to create not just great music, but an affordable night out. They offer a high-energy show performed by veteran, skilled musicians for a considerably lower ticket price than some other well-known Celtic bands. Campbell says they’re certainly not looking to get rich, nor do they have outlandish requests on their performance “riders.” They aim to keep the costs of touring low, and they’re confident their strategy of keeping audiences happy with live music and a steady stream of new recordings will translate into return ticket-buyers year after year.
“Even if we can half-fill halls like the one in St. Marys — and we’re already well past that mark in advance ticket sales — and sell some CDs from the merch table, then we can make a little bit of money from the show,” he said. “And that’s all we really need.”
Aside from touring from town to town (“Small towns have kept us going,” Campbell commented. “And my brother and I are from a small town, too.”), the Mudmen have also built up a unique niche success story: Performing at stereotypically Canadian sporting events. Over the years, the list of venues has included men’s curling’s The Brier championship, football’s the Grey Cup, the World Junior Hockey Championships, and a reunion of the 1984 Stanley Cup-winning Edmonton Oilers hockey club. Their music has also been featured on hockey commentator Don Cherry’s long-running “Rock ’em, Sock ’em” video series.
But raising the curtain on their bagpipes, drum and guitar-fuelled Celtic rock in front of a captive audience in a small theatre like the one at the St. Marys Town Hall will always be what they enjoy the most.
“It’s really nice, because there’s no winning people over,” Robby Campbell explained. “They bought the tickets knowing what they were coming for, and they’re there to hear the music and see us perform.”